Lawsuit for Work Related Injury While Installing a Gas Pipeline

In Weber v. Northern Illinois Gas Co., 10 Ill. App. 3d 625, 295 N.E.2d 41 (1973), the plaintiff sued the defendants alleging violations of the Structural Work Act ( 740 ILCS 150/1 et seq. (West 1992)) and common law negligence for injuries he suffered while installing a gas pipeline owned by one of the defendants. Under the terms of the contract between the owner-defendant and the plaintiff's employer, an independent contractor, the owner-defendant's representatives had the right to stop work until, in their opinion, proper means and methods had been adopted by the plaintiff's employer to prevent danger to the lives or persons of individuals. The employees of that defendant were also given the right to remove unsafe equipment and request that workers they designated as unskilled be removed from the site. The owner-defendant in Weber also had a construction inspector at the site at all times. The inspector made certain that the job was done according to the owner-defendant's specifications, and he was at the site the entire time the independent contractors were working. The inspector also stated to the subcontractor that the equipment used when the plaintiff was injured was inadequate for the particular job being performed, but he did not take any steps to stop the work. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants as to both counts. The appeal of the Structural Work Act count was dismissed; however, the summary judgment order was reversed as to the negligence count as it related to the owner-defendant. This court found that the owner-defendant retained the power to forbid the work being done in a manner dangerous to others and that it failed to prevent the subcontractor from doing the details of the work in a dangerous manner even when it knew the work was being so done. Weber, 10 Ill. App. 3d at 639. This court further stated that the defendant had more power than to merely make suggestions or recommendations, and the subcontractor was not entirely free to do the work in his own way. Weber, 10 Ill. App. 3d at 639. As a result, this court stated that it could not conclude, as a matter of law, that the independent contractor had exclusive control over the work, which would have relieved the defendant of liability to the plaintiff. Weber, 10 Ill. App. 3d at 637. The court found instead that a fact finder could determine that the defendant retained the requisite amount of control to give rise to a duty under section 414 of the Restatement and that the amount of control retained by the defendant was a question of fact to be left to the trier of fact. Weber, 10 Ill. App. 3d at 637-39.